The fall of Mosul to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also referred to as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), suddenly put Iraq back on the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. Although stories of fleeing Iraqi troops and stolen U.S.-supplied Humvees got most of the attention in U.S. media, the hostage-taking of 49 Turkish citizens, including special forces, diplomats and children, from the Turkish consulate in Mosul, as well as 31 other Turks from elsewhere in northern Iraq, could limit U.S. options in responding to the growing chaos in Iraq. Turkey imposed […]

When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) launched its blitzkrieg assault on Iraq, it suddenly put the entire country in play, threatening its very existence. The rapid territorial gains by the ultra-extremist Sunni militant group put enormous pressure on the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. But it is not only Maliki who faces difficult and urgent choices. The Iraqi crisis is also a pressing challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama. As Obama and his advisers survey the disastrous scene, examining the possible scenarios that could emerge from the crisis and weighing the options for Washington, all […]

Colombians re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos for a second term on June 15, in what is being described as a referendum on his government’s peace negotiations to end the half-century-long guerrilla war with the FARC. The election was close until the very end, with pre-election polls predicting differing results. In the end, Santos won a little more than 50 percent of the votes while his challenger, former Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, gained a little over 45 percent, providing a close yet nonetheless decisive mandate for the incumbent president to continue with the peace process. With this in mind, some […]

Two separate terrorist attacks rocked the international airport in Pakistan’s biggest city, Karachi, last week, killing dozens. On Sunday, the Pakistani military launched a long-delayed ground assault into its tribal regions in an effort to root out the militants that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif now calls a threat to “the sovereignty of the motherland.” Pakistan has for years been locked in conflict with the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the TTP, a homegrown Pakistani group with links to the Afghan Taliban. But the Pakistani military’s initial statements on its operations in the tribal areas this week emphasized that among […]

The news from Iraq was nothing short of stunning: A group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) managed to take control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, adding to a growing expanse of territory on both sides of the border between Iraq and Syria now under the control of the ultra-extremist Sunni militant organization. As shocking as the sudden conquest was the impact it had on the population. Within hours of the Iraqi military’s retreat and the ensuing hoisting of the Islamists’ flag, half a million residents of Mosul started streaming out of the city in what […]

The election of Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi as president of Egypt will further inflame the jihadist insurgency that took off after the Egyptian military removed Mohamed Morsi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, from power in 2013. If history is any guide, el-Sisi, a former general, will hold tightly to power, justifying it as the only way to protect Egypt’s security, thus repeating a common pattern across Africa and the Middle East as elections lead to de facto dictatorships with a few trappings of democracy. Invariably this will further anger and radicalize the Islamist opposition, empowering the extremists who believe that the […]

In late May, the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab staged two major attacks on the same Saturday, striking Mogadishu’s parliament building as well as pulling off the first-ever suicide attack in neighboring Djibouti. In one day, the group demonstrated not only its continuing ability to strike the heavily defended heart of the Somali capital, but also to reach new targets. The attacks, which killed at least 10 people in Somalia and at least three in Djibouti, occurred after weeks of sustained global focus on Nigeria’s Boko Haram, which kidnapped some 276 schoolgirls in mid-April. They raised the question of whether, amid […]

With some Southeast Asian Muslims raising funds and recruiting fighters for Syria, concerns are growing that these activities will eventually raise the risk of terrorism in the region. The numbers are still low, but some governments—Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular—are beginning to wonder what the impact will be a few years hence if some of their extremist nationals or neighbors come back with new skills. The past decade has seen a steady decline in the extremist threat from the region, which was once seen as a possible “second front” for al-Qaida. Enhanced vigilance, good law enforcement, reasonably cooperative interstate […]

For years, security experts have warned of the threat from “homegrown terrorists” inspired by al-Qaida’s violent ideology. While American jihadists have not yet pulled off an attack on the scale of 9/11, they were responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings of 2013. Other Western nations have been similarly unfortunate: Homegrown terrorists engineered the Madrid train bombings of 2004 and the London Underground bombings of 2005. And it could get worse as dozens or even hundreds of trained, experienced, radicalized fighters return home from conflicts in the Islamic world. The Syrian insurgency is the biggest concern. An estimated 11,000 foreign fighters […]

Speech Plus Action Needed for Obama Doctrine to Succeed

By the time you read this column, the American public and punditocracy alike will have moved on from President Barack Obama’s West Point speech—after all, five days is an eternity in today’s media landscape. But a question I was asked by Sirius XM’s Ari Rabin-Havt in commenting on Obama’s address has stuck in my mind. What would it take, Rabin-Havt asked, for Obama’s West Point speech to be remembered like the Marshall Plan speech? He was referring to George Marshall’s 1947 commencement address at Harvard, which laid out the need for major economic assistance to postwar Europe. The outlines of […]